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March 13th

Born: Esther Johnson (Swift's Stella), 1681, Sheen, Surrey; Dr. Joseph Priestley, philosophical writer, 1733, Field-head; Joseph II (of Germany), 1741; Charles, Earl Grey, statesman, 1764, Bowled.

Died: Belisarius, general, 565, Constantinople; Cardinal d'Ossat, 1604, Rome: Bartholo Legate, burned, 1614: Richard Cowley, actor, 1618, Shoreditch; John Gregory, scholar, 1646; Jean de Is Fontaine, French poet, 1695; Peter Mignard, French painter, 1695; Nicolas Boileau, French poet, 1711; Archbishop Herring, 1757, Croydon; Sophia Lee, novelist, 1824; J. F. Daniell, chemist and meteorologist, 1845: Regina Maria Roche, novelist, (Children of the Abbey,) 1845; Sir T. N. Talfourd, dramatist and lawyer, 1854; Richard, Lord Braybrooke, editor of Pepys's Diary, 1858.

Feast Day: St. Euphrasia, virgin, 410. St. Mochoemoe, abbot in Ireland, 655. St. Gerald, bishop in Ireland, 732. St. Theophanes, abbot, 818. St. Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople, 828. St. Kennocha, virgin in Scotland, 1007.


Belisarius is one of those historical names which, from accidental circumstances, are more impressed on our memories than some of greater importance. As not unfrequently happens, the circumstance which has most enlisted our sympathies with it proves on investigation to be a mere fiction. The picture of the aged hero, deprived of his eyes, and reduced to beggary by the ingratitude of his imperial master, and seeking individual charity in the memorable words, Date obolum Belisario, is familiar to every school-boy as a touching example of the inconstancy of fortune. Yet it is a story inconsistent with the facts of history, invented apparently several centuries after the period at which it was supposed to have occurred, and first mentioned by John Tzetzes, a Greek writer of no authority, who lived in the twelfth century.

The origin of Belisarius is doubtful, but he has been conjectured to have been a Teuton, and to have been at least bred in his youth among the Goths. We find him first serving as a barbarian recruit among the private guards of Justinian, before he ascended the imperial throne, and, after that event, which took place in A.D. 527, he was raised to a military command, and soon displayed qualities as a warrior and a man which give him a rank among the most celebrated names of antiquity. His great services to the Empire commenced with the arduous campaign in 529, in which he protected it against the invasions of the Persians. He returned to Constantinople to save the Emperor from the consequences of a great and dangerous insurrection in the capital. In 533, he received the command of an expedition against the Vandals, who had made themselves masters of Carthage and Africa, and by his marvellous skill and constancy, as well as by his moderation and policy, he restored that province to the Empire.

In the command of his army he had to contend with troops who, as well as their officers, were demoralized and turbulent, and in reducing them to discipline and obedience he performed a more difficult task than even that of conquering the enemy. The consequence was that the officers who served under Belisarius indulged their jealousy and personal hostility by writing to Constantinople, disparaging his exploits, and privately accusing him of a design to usurp the kingdom of Africa. Justinian himself was jealous of his benefactor, and indirectly recalled him to the Court, where, however, his presence silenced envy, if it did not overcome it, and he obtained the honours of a triumph, the first which had yet been given in the city of Constantinople. It was adorned by the presence of Gelimer, the captive king of the Vandals of Africa; and immediately afterwards Belisarius was declared consul for the following year.

Belisarius was soon called upon to march at the head of the Roman armies against the Goths of Italy, where new victories and new conquests attended him, and Italy also was restored to the Imperial crown. During this war, Rome was besieged by the Goths, and only saved from them by the conduct of the great imperial commander. The glory of Belisarius was now at its height, and, though the praise of the court was faint and hollow, he was beloved by the soldiers, and almost adored by the people, whose prosperity he had secured.

After another brief expedition against the Persians, Belisarius fell under the displeasure of the empress, the infamous Theodora, and was disgraced, and even in danger of his life. He only escaped by submission, and again left Constantinople to take the command of an Italian war. The Gothic king Totilas had again invaded that province, and was threatening Rome. Unsupported and unsupplied with troops and the necessaries of war, Belisarius was obliged to remain an idle spectator of the progress of the Goths, until, in A.D. 546, they laid siege to Rome, and proceeded to reduce it by famine. Before any succour could arrive, the imperial city was surrendered to the barbarians, and the king of the Goths became its master. It was, however, preserved from entire destruction by the remonstrances of Belisarius, who recovered possession of it in the following year, and repaired its walls and defences. But treachery at home continued to counteract the efforts of the general in the provinces, and, after struggling gloriously against innumerable and insurmountable difficulties, Belisarius was finally recalled to Constantinople in the year 548. After his departure, the Goths again became victorious, and the following year Rome was again taken by Totilas.

The last exploit of Belisarius saved Constantinople from the fury of the Bulgarians, who had invaded Macedonia and Thrace, and appeared within sight of the capital. Now an aged veteran, he attacked them with a small number of troops hastily collected, and inflicted on them a signal defeat; but Justinian was guided by treacherous councils, and prevented his general from following up the success. On his return, he was welcomed with acclamations by the inhabitants of Constantinople; but even this appears to have been imputed to him as a crime, and the emperor received him coldly, and treated him with neglect. This, which occurred in 559, was his last victory; two years afterwards, an occasion was taken to accuse Belisarius of complicity in a conspiracy against the life of the emperor. He presented himself before the imperial council with a conscious innocence which could not be gainsayed; but Justinian had prejudged his guilt; his life was spared as a favour, but his wealth was seized, and he was confined a prisoner in his own palace. After he had been thus confined a few months, his entire innocence was acknowledged, and he was restored to his liberty and fortune; but he only survived about eight months, and died on the 13th of March, 565. The emperor immediately confiscated his treasures, restoring only a small portion to his wife Antonina.


JOHN GREGORY'This miracle of his age for critical and curious learning,' as Anthony Wood describes him, was born at Amersham, in Buckinghamshire, on the 10th November, 1607, and baptized at the parish church on the 15th of the same month. He was the son of John and Winifred Gregory, who were, says Fuller, 'honest though mean (poor), yet rich enough to derive unto him the hereditary infirmity of the gout.'

Having been found a boy of talent, he was probably educated and sent to Oxford at the expense of some member of the Drake family, for in 1624 we find him at Christ Church in the capacity of servitor to Sir William Drake, where 'he and his master,' says Wood, 'were placed under the tuition of the learned Mr. George Morley, afterwards Bishop of Winchester.' Young Gregory was an indefatigable student, devoting no less than 'sixteen out of every four-and-twenty hours' to the pursuit of learning. This almost incredible application he continued for years; and when, in 1631, he took the degree of Master of Arts, he astonished his examiners with the amount of his learning. Dr. Duppa, the Dean of Christ's Church, struck with Gregory's erudition, took him under his especial patronage, and gave him a minor canonry in his cathedral; subsequently, on becoming Bishop of Chichester, he appointed Gregory his domestic chaplain, and conferred on him a prebend in his cathedral; and, on being translated to the see of Salisbury, he also gave him a stall in that cathedral.

Wood's account of Gregory's acquirements is too curious to be given in any but his own words. 'He attained,' says this biographer, 'to a learned elegance in English, Latin, and Greek, and to an exact skill in Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee, Arabic, Ethiopic, &c. He was also well versed in philosophy, had a curious faculty in astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic, and a familiar acquaintance with the Jewish Rabbins, Ancient Fathers, modern critics, commentators, and what not.' His works, which are still extant, though scarce, corroborate the above account; yet while he necessarily brings forth his learning in discussing abstruse questions, he makes no display of it, and Fuller, after stating that he was 'an exquisite linguist and general scholar,' adds, 'his modesty setting the greater lustre on his learning.' Nor does he appear to have taken any active part in the contentions of his day. His works are confined to learned and scientific subjects, and scarcely manifest a bias to any party. Yet neither his modesty, nor humble birth, nor his profound learning, nor his quiet inoffensive habits could save him from the animosity that was then rampant in the two contending parties. He was deprived of all his preferments, and reduced to destitution—without a home, and without the means of procuring one. His case was but a common one in those days of national strife and bloodshed.

At length he found a place of refuge---a miserable one it was, at 'an obscure ale-house standing on the green at Kidlington, near Oxford, and kept by a man named Sutton.' Gregory, in the days of his prosperity, had taken Sutton's son into his service; had treated him with kindness and benevolence; had improved his education, and endeavoured to advance his condition in life. What became of the boy is not known, but Gregory's kindness to him had reached the father's heart, and now Sutton, with meritorious gratitude, offered Gregory an asylum and a home.

Here the learned prebendary lingered out the last years of his life, tormented with gout, and in all his afflictions subject to the noise and discomfort of a village alehouse. He died on the 13th of March, 1646, and his friends, who during his life were either unwilling or afraid to alleviate his sufferings, contributed towards his funeral expenses, and gave him honourable burial in the choir of Christ Church cathedral. Many and extravagantly eulogistic were the elegies which now appeared in praise of his erudition, his humility, and his piety.


Professor Daniell died in a moment, in the Council-room of the Royal Society, immediately after concluding some remarks on a scientific subject, the day after he had completed his fifty-fifth year. He was one of the most accomplished men of science of his day, distinguished as a professor of chemistry, and as a writer of treatises on chemistry and electricity, but is perhaps most notable to us as one of the first in our country to attempt philosophical authorship on meteorological subjects. This science is now cultivated assiduously, under favour of the British Association and the Board of Trade, and has observers contributing to its results in all parts of the world; but in 1823, when Mr. Daniell published his Meleorological Essays, it was in a most rudimentary state.

Mr. Daniell owned in this volume his obligations to the works of preceding workers—the foundation-stones, as he' called them, of the science,—but in an especial manner to Mr. (afterwards Dr) Dalton, who had recently explained the constitution of the mixed gases. He had been enabled to arrive at the conclusion that there are, as it were, two distinct atmospheres surrounding the earth—the air, and the suspended vapour —whose relations to heat are different, and whose conditions of equilibrium are incompatible with each other. Owing to the antagonisms of these two fluids, a continual movement is kept up, tending to the most important results.

After tracing the phenomena, the philosopher, in a devout strain, which was characteristic of him, proceeded to say: 'In tracing the harmonious results of such discordant operations, it is impossible not to pause to offer up a humble tribute of admiration of the designs of a beneficent Providence, thus imperfectly developed in a department of creation where they have been supposed to be most obscure. By an invisible, but ever-active agency, the waters of the deep are raised into the air, whence their distribution follows, as it were, by measure and weight, in proportion to the beneficial effects which they are calculated to produce. By gradual, but almost insensible expansions, the equipoised currents of the atmosphere are disturbed, the stormy winds arise, and the waves of the sea are lifted up; and that stagnation of air and water is prevented which would be fatal to animal existence. But the force which operates is calculated and proportioned; the very agent which causes the disturbance bears with it its own check; and the storm, as it vents its force, is itself setting the bounds of its own fury.'

When we consider the activity now shown in the prosecution of meteorology, it will appear scarcely credible that, so lately as the date of Mr. Daniell's book, there were no authorized instruments for observation in this department but those at the Royal Society's apartments in London, which had long been in such a state that no dependence whatever could be placed upon them. The barometer had been filled without any care to remove the moisture from the glass, and in taking the observations no correction was ever applied for the alteration of level in the mercury of the cistern, or for the change of density in the metal from variations of temperature. With respect to the thermometers, no care had been taken to secure correct graduation.

The Society had never possessed a vane; it learned the course of the winds from a neighbouring weathercock. The rain-gauge, the elevation of which was stated with ostentatious precision, was placed immediately below a chimney, in the centre of one of the smokiest parts of London, and it was part of the duty of the Society's clerk ever and anon to pass a wire up the funnel to clear it of soot. To complain, after this, that the water was left to collect for weeks and months before it was measured, 'would,' says Mr. Daniell, 'be comparatively insignificant criticism.'


The astronomical labours of the self-taught genius William Herschel at Slough, under shadow of the patronage of George III, and his addition of a first-class planet to the short list which had remained unextended from the earliest ages, were amongst the matters of familiar interest which formed conversation in the days of our fathers.

It was on the evening of the 13th of March, 1781, that the patient German, while examining some small stars in the constellation Gemini, marked one that was new to him; he applied different telescopes to it in turn, and found the results different from those observable with fixed stars. Was it a comet? He watched it night after night, with a view of solving this question; and he soon found that the body was moving among the stars. He continued his observations till the 19th of April, when he communicated to the Royal Society an account of all he had yet ascertained concerning the strange visitor. The attention of astronomers both at home and abroad was excited; and calculations were made to determine the orbit of the supposed comet.

None of these calculations, however, accorded with the observed motion; and there arose a farther question, 'Is it a planet?' This question set the computers again at work; and they soon agreed that a new planet really had been discovered in the heavens. It was at first supposed that the orbit was circular; but Laplace, in 1783, demonstrated that, as in the case of all the other planets, it is elliptical. It then became duly recognized as the outermost of the members of the solar system, and so remained until the recent days when the planet Neptune was discovered. The discoverer, wishing to pay a compliment to the monarch who so liberally supported him, gave the name of the Georgium Sides, or Georgian Star, to the new planet; other English astronomers, wishing to compliment the discoverer himself, suggested the name of Herschel; but Continental astronomers proposed that the old mythological system should be followed; and this plan was adopted, the name Uranus, suggested by Bode, being now accepted by all the scientific world as a designation for the seventh planet.


Amongst weather notions one of the most prevalent is that which represents the moon as exercising a great influence. It is supposed that upon the time of day at which the moon changes depends the character of the weather during the whole of the ensuing month; and we usually hear the venerable name of Sir William Herschel adduced as authorising this notion. Foster, in his Perennial Calendar, transfers from the European Magazine what he calls an excellent table of the prospective weather, founded on 'a philosophical consideration of the attraction of the sun and moon in their several positions respecting the earth.' Modern science in reality rejects all these ideas as vain delusions; witness the following letter written by the late ingenious professor of astronomy in the university of Glasgow, in answer to a gentleman who wrote to him, making inquiries upon this subject.

'Observatory, July 5, 1856.-Dear Sir, I am in receipt of your letter regarding the supposed influence of the moon on the weather. You are altogether correct. No relation exists between these classes of phenomena. The question has been tested and decided over and over again by the discussion of long and reliable meteorological tables; nor do I know any other positive way of testing any such point. I confess I cannot account for the origin of the prevalent belief. J. P. Nichol.'

Admiral Fitzroy, through the publications authorized by the Board of Trade, has stated such- of the observations of common weather wisdom as may be depended upon.

The old remark about a ruddy evening and a grey morning (alluded to in the gospel of Matthew) as indicating good weather, meets full approval; as also that a red sky in the morning foretells bad weather, or much rain, if not wind. The Admiral adds, that a high dawn denotes wind, and a low dawn fair weather. When clouds have a soft and delicate appearance, fair weather may be looked for; when they are hard and ragged, wind is to be expected.

'Misty clouds forming or hanging on heights show wind and rain coming, if they remain or descend. If they rise or disperse, the weather will improve, or become fine.

'When sea-birds fly out early and far to seaward, moderate wind and fair weather may be expected. When they hang about the land or over it, some-times flying inland, expect a strong wind, with stormy weather. When birds of long flight, such as swallows, hang about home, and fly low, rain or wind may be expected; also when pigs carry straw to their sties, and when smoke from chimneys does not ascend readily.

'Dew is an indication of fine weather; so is fog. Remarkable clearness of atmosphere near the horizon, distant objects, such as hills unusually visible or raised by refraction; what is called a good hearing day; may be mentioned among signs of wet, if not wind, to be expected.'


By Dr. Amer.

The hollow winds begin to blow;
The clouds look black, the glass is low;
The soot falls down, the spaniels sleep;
And spiders from their cobwebs peep.
 Last night the sun went pale to bed;
The moon in halos hid her head.
The boding shepherd heaves a sigh,
For, see, a rainbow spans the sky.
The walls are damp, the ditches smell,
Clos'd is the pink-ey'd pimpernel.
Hark! how the chairs and tables crack,
Old Betty's joints are on the rack:
Her corns with shooting pains torment her,
And to her bed untimely sent her.
Loud quack the ducks, the sea fowl cry,
The distant hills are looking nigh.
How restless are the snorting swine!
The busy flies disturb the kine.
Low o'er the grass the swallow wings,
The cricket, too, how sharp he sings!
Puss on the hearth, with velvet paws,
Sits wiping o'er her whisker'd jaws.
The smoke from chimneys right ascends,
Then spreading, back to earth it bends.
The wind unsteady veers around,
Or settling in the South is found.
Through the clear stream the fishes rise,
And nimbly catch the incautious flies.
The glow worms num'rous, clear and bright,
Illum'd the dewy hill last night.
At dusk the squalid toad was seen,
Like quadruped, stalk o'er the green.
The whirling wind the dust obeys,
And in the rapid eddy plays.
The frog has chang'd his yellow vest,
And in a russet coat is drest.
The sky is green, the air is still,
The mellow blackbird's voice is shrill.
The dog, so alter'd in his taste,
Quits mutton-bones, on grass to feast.
Behold the rooks, how odd their flight,
They imitate the gliding kite,
And seem precipitate to fall,
As if they felt the piercing ball.
The tender colts oat back do lie,
Nor heed the traveller passing by.
In fiery red the sun doth rise,
Then wades through clouds to mount the skies.
'Twill surely rain, we see't with sorrow,
No working in the fields tomorrow.

March 14th